Missouri volleyball rolls over Tide for conference-opening sweep

Despite a late push by the Crimson Tide in the third set, the Tigers finished strong to start 1-0 in SEC play.
Missouri’s Alyssa Munlyn celebrates a successful save during the third set of a match against Drake on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Munlyn, originally from Suwanee, GA, was SEC Freshman of the Year in 2015.

Missouri volleyball coach Wayne Kreklow talked extensively last week about doing the little things well — the things that don’t show up in the box score.

So as his Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide traded points late into the third set Wednesday night and the pressure continued to mount in a nervous Hearnes Center, it became more apparent what those little things were.

“We did a really good job of steadying up, executing and being mentally tough down the stretch,” Kreklow said. “This taught us a good lesson. [We got] challenged and pushed. They didn’t give it away, we had to earn it.”

Missouri scratched out a 28-26 win in extra points of the climactic set to finish off No. 25 Alabama (12-2) in straight sets in the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference opener.

Missouri’s identity was questioned throughout nonconference play as it acclimated to a roster full of new faces. In the group’s first true challenge against an SEC opponent, it was clear to be a test of just how well it had gelled together.

And at the end of the night, it was Missouri (11-2), not the Tide, that rolled.

“We’ve been practicing all season to play SEC games,” sophomore Leketor Member-Meneh said. “We’re really underestimated, and we’re ready to show people [what we can do].”

Member-Meneh and sophomore Dariana Hollingsworth dominated, leading team with 15 and 14 kills, respectively. Sophomore transfer Kylie Deberg had 10 kills as well.

Hollingsworth, who does not consider herself to be as much of an offensive threat, credited much of her success to redshirt freshman and fellow Puerto Rican Andrea Fuentes. Fuentes led the match with 26 assists from the setter position.

“[Fuentes] made me feel comfortable,” Hollingsworth said. “We had so many gaps in the block with her set, and her fast tempo, I was able to find a seam wherever.”

Through two sets, the Tigers held the momentum and looked as if they would run away with the victory without a scratch.

In the first set, Missouri finished on a 6-2 run after trading points with the Crimson Tide for much of the set. Building on their first set momentum, the Tigers dominated the second set 25-18.

It was not until the late in the third set that Alabama began to find its footing and challenge the Missouri offense. As quickly as Tigers got out to a 19-11 lead, the Tide caught fire to cut the lead from seven to one, and Missouri had to regroup and respond.

“We kept the huddle tight,” Member-Meneh said. “When the pressure came on, we were ready for it.”

Missouri rallied through two Alabama set points to claim the set 28-26 and complete the sweep.

The Tigers racked up 50 kills – close to twice that of the Tide – and out hit Alabama by .176.

Despite the statement win, there are still improvements to be made before Sunday’s match at Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Tigers still committed 21 total errors, including 10 service errors.

“As a team we are going to work on the small things,” Hollingsworth said. “In the last set, that’s what we focused on. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to win games.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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